Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited what he termed the “Super Bowl of Farm Shows” in visiting the 2017 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., on Wednesday.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store here,” Perdue said of the new “big toys” on the grounds. Perdue said the equipment technology in agriculture is fascinating in terms of not only a mechanical perspective, but what it means from a data collection perspective.
“How it can make the American farmer produce even better than he has been is absolutely thrilling for me to see,” Perdue said. "As farmers are able to do more with less inputs and precision agriculture, they’re doing a better job with less runoff and improved environmental and conservation efforts, he added.
Following discussion on the show grounds, Perdue toured the AGCO field demonstration plot with members of the House Agriculture Committee including Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas).
On the regulatory front, Perdue also said he’s trying to “unwind some of the regulatory impediments in agriculture” dealing with the Department of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Energy. He said a big win on the environmental regulatory side came in the appointment of Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt to draw back onerous rules such as the waters of the U.S. rule.
Many farmers are concerned about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and ability to maintain U.S. agricultural ag exports. He reiterated recent statements about the need to take into consideration trade deficits experienced across the entire U.S. economy in doing the NAFTA modernization. He said the U.S. industry is blessed with a productive agriculture industry, but solutions are needed to address the deficits that exist within other segments of the economy.
Perdue stopped short of guaranteeing NAFTA would do no harm to agriculture as many agricultural groups have called for within negotiations. “I cannot reassure [farmers] of the outcome right now as we reconcile the overall economy,” he said, but said trade remains a top priority at USDA.
The ag secretary said negotiators are hopeful to have discussions wrapped up by December. Two more negotiating rounds are slated in September in Mexico and Canada.
Perdue said he hopes to inspire young people to be involved in agriculture as the demographics of an aging farm generation continue to climb.
Fatka is policy editor for Farm Futures.